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Building a Housewife's Paradise: Gender, Politics, and American Grocery Stores in the Twentieth Century Hardcover

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press (April 15, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0807833274
  • ISBN-13: 978-0807833278
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.3 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,709,690 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"[This] book causes readers to look more closely at one of the most important consumer experiences of the twentieth century."
-The Historian

"Paints a picture of stores alive with social interactions and struggles that often contradict the standardized model supermarkets are known for."
--University of Chicago Magazine

"[A] vivid social history"
-Enterprise & Society

"[Deutsch's] work makes a significant contribution to the growing historiography of consumer politics….Deutsch demonstrates the central role that gender played in the rise of supermarkets."
-The Journal of American History

"Putting the state back into the study of consumption, Tracey Deutsch traces the rise of the supermarket as the essential form of food procurement. She highlights the embeddedness of gender within the development of modern retailing, expanding feminist understanding of unpaid labor, women's work, and political activism. You'll never be able to think about shopping in the same way after reading this compelling book!"
-Eileen Boris, Hull Professor and Chair, Department of Feminist Studies, University of California, Santa Barbara

"This is a politically charged chronicle of an everyday institution. Deutsch is at the leading edge of one of the most dynamic and innovative fields of historical scholarship today. In her exceptionally sophisticated treatment, daily food shopping becomes an act of public engagement, struggle, even resistance. This is a big story dealing with the very heart of consumer culture."
-Warren Belasco, author of Meals to Come: A History of the Future of Food

"A meticulously researched study that delivers vast quantities of data. . . . Deutsch argues forcefully that retail history warrants close attention. . . . Recommended."

"Deutsch demonstrates that the history of food retailing in mid-twentieth-century America was deeply political in ways that have been underappreciated. With comprehensive research and effective presentation, Building a Housewife's Paradise makes a significant contribution to gender studies and business history."
-Glenna Matthews, author of Just a Housewife: The Rise and Fall of Domesticity in America

"A tremendous contribution to several bodies of literature."
-Reviews in American History

"It seems amazing that no one had yet written about this ubiquitous feature of American physical and economic landscapes. Deutsch's argument about the rise of supermarkets is important because it avoids the sense of inevitability that sometimes surrounds contemporary public debates about corporate concentration and urban sprawl in the era of Wal-Mart. The narrative she presents is not a triumphant one, nor one in which smaller groceries are necessarily victims of corporate power and a 'bigger is better' mentality. Rather, she shows a) the contests over, and even failings of, smaller stores as a driver for supermarkets, rather than a result of them; b) the historical specificity of the time (and places) in which they emerged; and c) the negotiations between historical agents, ranging from the federal government to individual shoppers, who were involved in supermarket planning. This is still a story about power, economic, politics, and of course food procurement, but it is a nuanced and sensitive story, told in a measured way."
-Marina Moskowitz, University of Glasgow

"Taking women's food procurement seriously as labor, Tracey Deutsch combines fresh research with subtle and sophisticated analysis in this vital contribution to the scholarship on mass consumption. By exposing the policy decisions that structured distribution and the on-the-ground ideological assumptions that informed them, she illuminates the twentieth-century struggle to depoliticize the act of consumption--a crucial counterpart to the battles over production of the same decades. Building a Housewife's Paradise exposes the historical amnesia involved in reading market outcomes as a straightforward expression of consumer demand."
-Bethany Moreton, author of To Serve God and Wal-Mart: The Making of Christian Free Enterprise

"Tracey Deutsch's well-written and impeccably researched book is a major contribution to studies of mass retailing and the politics of mass consumption . . . . [Her] richly detailed and rigorously analyzed study will find an appreciative audience among historians of gender, business, labor, and consumer culture."
-American Historical Review

From the Inside Flap

In an examination of the history of food distribution in the United States, Deutsch demonstrates the important roles that gender, business, class, and the state played in the evolution of American grocery stores. She argues that the supermarket, that icon of postwar American life, emerged not from straightforward consumer desire for low prices and convenience, but through government regulations, women customers' demands, and retailers' concerns with financial success and control of the "shop floor."

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

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Great book. Very interesting. Read it for my women and gender studies course. I never thought I would be so interested in the history of grocery stores.
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